The leading Republican presidential candidates debated Wednesday night at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library in Simi Valley, California. The debate, hosted by NBC News and Politico and with Reagan’s widow Nancy Reagan in attendance, was notable for the inclusion of Texas Governor Rick Perry in his first presidential primary debate since formally announcing his candidacy for the presidency last month. Also participating in the debate were the leading candidates (in addition to current front-runner Perry) Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann, as well as Rick Santorum, Jon Huntsman, Jr., Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain, each of whom met the minimum debate requirements of being formally announced candidates and achieving at least 4 percent in a national poll from one of the major survey organizations.
As expected, each candidate criticized President Obama. For example, all the candidates criticized the Affordable Care Act, derisively calling it “Obamacare”. However, debate moderators Brian Williams of NBC News and John Harris of Politico elicited a number of differences, and some fireworks, between the candidates:
- Romney criticized those who have spent their whole “career in government.” It was a line Romney has been using lately, and is widely viewed as an indirect criticism of Perry. In response, Perry said Romney had one of lowest job creation rates in the country as Massachusetts Governor.
- Former Utah Governor Huntsman criticized Romney‘s trade attacks on China, saying: “now is not the time, in a recession, to enter a trade war.”
- Romney was shown a clip of him from several years ago, saying that what he did in Massachusetts with health care (having a statewide health care plan with mandated coverage) was “a great opportunity” for the rest of country. The other candidates were asked if they agreed. None raised their hand. Perry said that the federal government should get out of health care, and that Medicaid should be a block grant to states. Likewise, Huntsman said that an individual mandate to buy health insurance is never appropriate. Cain said that “Romneycare” doesn’t work either.
- Perry was asked about the statement in his recent book “Fed Up” that Social Security is a wrong-headed program. Perry said that Social Security is “a monstrous lie” and “a Ponzi scheme”. Asked about Karl Rove & Dick Cheney‘s criticism of Perry’s views on Social Security, Perry said: “Karl has been over the top for a long time” and “I don’t care what anyone says”. Mitt Romney strongly disagreed with Perry’s assertion in his book that “by any measure, Social Security is a failure”. Romney said that tens of millions of people depend on Social Security, and that it should be saved, not abolished.
- Texas Congressman Ron Paul was asked about his campaign’s statement criticizing Perry’s record, and agreed that Perry is much less conservative than meets the eye. Paul pointed to Perry’s law passed by executive order forcing girls in Texas to get an HPV vaccine to prevent cervical cancer. Paul said the Texas Legislature “overwhelmingly repealed this”. He said: “I would not use executive orders to write laws”. Bachmann also criticized Perry, saying it should be up to parents, not government, to inoculate children. Likewise, former Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum said he was “offended” by Perry’s order, and that parents’ rights should be paramount. Santorum said the Texas inoculation plan should have been “opt-in”, meaning voluntary.
- Santorum addressed Perry’s statement in “Fed Up” that it was a mistake to create the Department of Homeland Security. Santorum said he helped create DHS, and said it was necessary after the 9/11 attacks. Newt Gingrich said that, as Speaker of the House, he “helped develop the model for Homeland Security.” Gingrich said that DHS is needed, though it could be overhauled and reformed.
- Bachmann was asked about her statement that she could bring back $2 per gallon gasoline. Bachmann replied that she could achieve this by reducing federal regulations. However, Huntsman said that it is not realistic to predict $2 per gallon gas. He said that gasoline really costs $13 per gallon if items such as troop deployments and guarding oil shipments are included.
- Huntsman was asked about his campaign’s statements that his Republican competitors were “crazy,” “inane”, and “anti-science”. Huntsman said that it’s wrong to say humans don’t affect climate change, as Perry has said, when, according to Huntsman, 98 out of the 100 leading scientists say otherwise. Perry responded that “the science is not settled” on whether humans are impacting climate change.
At one point in the debate, Perry joked: “I kind of feel like the pinata here.”
[Note: links not in bold have been added by knotmove.com, not by the author.]
© 2011 Matthew Emmer — All Rights Reserved
Enjoy this article? Receive email alerts when new articles have been published. Just click on the “Subscribe” link underneath the author bio below.